Monday, April 02, 2007

Joining a Country Club

Janet and I have finally joined a country club after years of searching for the right fit. We hate showoffs and pretense, and all we want from a country club is good golfing and “real” people. North Carolina has some of the best country clubs in the world, and we had a bewildering array of choices.

Click this link for my complete tips on joining a country club.

Over the years I’ve been invited to play (as a guest) at a wide range of country clubs, from some of the most prestigious country clubs, to good Ole Boy redneck golf clubs.

Even if I had more money than Bill Gates, I would not pay $100,000 to join and $50,000 in yearly fees. Sure, it’s prestigious, but I have no need to show off to anyone, I just want to golf.

For those shopping for country clubs, here are my notes. I categorize country clubs into two tiers, with four distinct types of clubs:

- Posh country clubs:

  • Olde Money clubs
  • Nouveau riche Clubs

- Laymen country clubs:

  • Executive country clubs
  • Blue-collar golf clubs

I noticed that the most exclusive country clubs serves two markets of the idle rich.

These clubs are quite luxurious, and men’s room of the swanky country clubs has fake French attendants in tuxedos with a towel hanging over their forearm. They have shelves of stink-pretty cologne and the attendants fawn all over you, offering to help you with everything, short of shaking your wiener for you.

If I were wealthy I would likely not be accepted into an Olde-Money country club, and there is no way that I would ever join a nouveau riche club. I don't need all these amenities:

The “Olde-Money” Country clubs

Join fee: $500k-$1m
Yearly dues: $100k-$300k
Amenities: Five-star restaurant, wine cellar, polo
Downsides: Snobby, formal, cliquish

It’s funny, the Olde-Money folks are remarkably unpretentious, nice people who have no need to show-off, and they often exclude the newly-minted zillionaires from their clubs, and for very good reasons. These are clubs with strict membership requirements, and include members of the Robber Baron descendents like the Getty’s, DuPont’s and Rockefeller, (but not Carnegie’s as they have no money left). The only outsiders allowed to join these clubs are the “novelty” members, including the occasional politician or movie actor.

The “nouveau riche” Country clubs

Join fee: $100k-$250k
Yearly dues: $50k-$200k
Amenities: Five-star restaurant, wine cellar
Downsides: Pretentious, over-the-top, gaudy

These clubs will take anybody with the money to pay the fees, and they are populated with many folks who only want the status of membership, not the golf.

There are many derogatory terms for the nouveau riche such as “Beverly Hillbillies” and “Bel-Arabs”, and I’ve noticed that, by and large, newly wealthy people have a compulsion to display their wealth via ostentatious and obscene displays.

I remember golfing with a fellow who insisted on passing-around his quarter-million dollar wristwatch, at the 19th hole, bragging about its “complexities”. I also once played with a newly rich Texan and I’ll never forget when he said in his drawl:

“How dew you like mah gold-plated golf cart?”

Executive country clubs

Join fee: $15k-$80k
Yearly dues: $6k-$50k
Amenities: Indoor restaurant, wines with corks
Downsides: Retired professionals

This class of club is populated by first generation successful people, mostly businessmen, corporate executives (country clubs fees are tax deductible to a corporation), plus sundry lawyers and physicians. This class of country clubs include the “community” clubs and local clubs that have high fees to keep out the riff-raff.

Blue Collar country clubs

Join fee: none
Yearly dues: $1.2k-$5k
Amenities: Snack bar with hot dogs and beer
Downsides: Open to the public

These are the most common country clubs, and for what they lack in terms of fine dining and amenities, they make-up for with a lack of pretense.

No stuck-up folks here, just dedicated golfers and ordinary friendly folks.